tv Duncan White Cold Warriors CSPAN October 11, 2019 6:27am-7:12am EDT
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eurasian studies at harvard university. with history or literature here to discuss cold warriors. so we are so pleased to have them here tonight. please me to welcome duncan white. [applause] >> we have five different microphones but i never met a microphone i did not like. congratulations i love that we are presenting on the day of
your publication. >> with 20 interviews this morning. >> so you call that a group biography so what is the hook. >> so the idea was to have a comprehensive history of the cold war and the cultural cold war and the literary cold war through the collapse of communism. in the idea that i had was to do that somatically.
experiences and then to be disenchanted of that and then to be really concerned and through stalinism. and that is marvelous trying to be rigorous and disciplined and to tell the story in all complex detail. so he has to go back and think how do i get that across? and that's basically how he told his story to go back and think about the simple most
and how they look through the iron curtain. 's. >> going to the nato pool. [laughter] that their actual spies that their actual spies. >> now all of a sudden because that we are already deep in the lingo and the logic. so why quick. >> so one of the things with my academic work it could be a little boring at times.
and that's an easy thing to think. and then to be so much more complicated and conflicted. but to look at the writer's perspective to see that that what was replaced and the complexity of the situation. >> and with those arguments in the book it is a narrative that yet suddenly you make these cases and the way corporate politics shape
and nothing more than what they have been working with and then making stuff up they were delivering false information. were the nazis as they were providing that information. but the spies inventor with that emphasis is not wildly differen different. >> your chapter is amazing and that cultural moment because we are not as familiar with that information campaign. but nothing seems less plausible but you established
ideology and culture in that chapter quick. >> which is the unbelievable bestseller. transforming into a movie and she moved to paris and married a state department official and was fiercely opposed to the vietnam war. she was quite a young woman. that then as a reporter and then recently there were is missing pages from saigon and
she was a tough cookie with those euphemisms and pacification and with those us policies. interesting stuff and that's what complicated it for her because she went against the american interest and had to battle her own instincts with the propaganda and at one point she was presented and was told that she didn't take
it off and she took it off later. and then with the american pows. and wanted to make a point how the pilots were dumb and uneducated and chewed up by the poor education system and went into political description with actually tortured and then allowed to get herself believe it is smart and sharp as her. and with that complicity. >> and then you feel the pull
this is the chapter of 1955 it seems like yesterday with the us cultural moment caught up in mccarthy and then you look at the political stage is just very similar to the current moment that it's very difficult to imagine solidarity that can succeed given the roadblocks so now all of a sudden because 2005 was not that long ago. so all of the writers are
caught in the middle. but he is searching for a way out as some of the leaders as they are all searching for a way out of this bipartisan conflict but the problem was the economic pressure being exerted was is impossible to escape in many ways so he needed readers in the market. he went to paris in indonesia for the conference but that was sponsored by the congress of cultural freedom which he did not know at the time was a cia funded operation so even
when he was doing the right thing he was caught up in the secret part of the cold war. but it's interesting to look and see how familiar that is. and those that are generated to write it against racist against white people because they are excluded from this famous meeting but yet the where are those echoes of the similar impasses that we have maybe without that ideological divide but what they are tussling against. >> i imagine you get a lot of questions about the current ideological polarization. so i wonder if you were thinking of any residence
between the cold war. >> and i touch on a couple of these things. i'm not looking down on this idea that but we are in a special and interesting moment. putin was a kgb agent. that legacy is clear to be seen. but the cold war was ideological. why those ideas were so powerful in my books were so important with those changes in technology that were an important aspect of this. but there is no communist regime competing with north korea but everything is on a
>> and that's a little easter egg. >> the the decadence. i have no idea. i thought i knew but to be so obsessed and how they were. is just astonishing and it surprised me. and with these figures from history and to see them in the human element is quite shocking. >> one more question. what's next? do you have ideas or what you're thinking about quick.
translation of his writing and then they left manuscript lying on the desk it took everything else in life that. so that was the german original writers would be fascinating to see what changes there are. >> i don't know but they are publishing. >> if you think about it the french edition was seismic and its impact it sold out and it
really challenge people of how they were thinking about moscow or the soviet union but all of that was based on the version of the chaotic circumstance. >>. >> i was thinking about this that there were at least two major understandings of culture one as a producer of art and one was a more scholarly culture of how meaning changes over time could you talk about about complicity or repression and how those meetings change over time especially that
ideological version of the cold war. >> that's a good question. the book itself is that idea of the approach to ideas like and censorship. i think you see ice is becoming more nuanced in their understanding of the implication with institutions, the states and in postmodern fiction a playful interaction with that, making that part of the narrative, but in the case of the pension it becomes a thing, part of the thing.
the i tree, traditional view of the writer's relationship to society, truth to power, talking about living in truth, kind of a modest idea about the writer's role in society, disparaging the larger population as far as how distant was not conducted just by intellectuals but people in positions that they did hold the cold warriors which is a slightly ironic title in a way, the idea about culture. >> something about the cold war? >> i would imagine so. i would imagine in some ways the opposition could be simpler, you were for the vietnam war or against it.
you lionized stalin a recognized if you were thinking about the contemporary writer and their own implication or use words i never did, the dynamics, much more dynamic and nuanced and difficult picture. it was harder to navigate. >> i read the first five pages, i looked at pictures, the first two pages, one of the things that was interesting it all comes down to the cold war and there is an explosion of texts. i was wondering if those texts,
reflect back on the structure of your argument, do they change the argument or are they peripheral to the argument? i didn't understand the function of the texts but it is an interesting thing. >> with typical western bias i'm interested in that. but they are not available in the original form in russian. it was crazy. a moment where over the space of a couple years dozens of these masterpieces become available. doctor zhivago is suddenly available but western books become available. it is published and it was a
moment it would be hard to imagine what it must have been like to be an older soviet citizen and to have all this literary production, in the space of a few months. and historical evidence being publicized but the lid got put back on long after it and may remain shut. it was an extraordinarily difficult moment with the end of the cold war with an explosion of literature and people reading books everywhere and can't remember the name.
david rimini, seeing everybody reading, consuming all this stuff. >> high. you talked about language with regard to the novel, can you say anything? does translation or language come into this? and original manuscript coming out with different translations. >> a lot of energy went into that. one of the stories i let the beginning, the translation of animal farm is polish and they produced it in a lightweight paper stock, small edition of the book. then attach these editions to
weather balloons and floated them and they were dropped and going out to milk the cows, and the polish edition. you have in many ways it plays an important part, it is hilarious and literary assessment, to get a guy in, what are the bits they go for, and kind of accomplished assessment in the soviet union. and it gave him access to western texts, something that
would bring you under suspicion, western intellectuals and so forth. >> this is a difficult question. is the soviet edition of for whom the bell tolls censored? you probably wouldn't even know. >> i don't know to be honest. i would be surprised if the addition that was put out, time wasn't sensitive, talking the late 30s. >> the original translation was after the western addition but that circulated. it could be circulated for a long time because of the picture on the marquee. >> probably the 60s.
>> one of the ones that was purged, the soviet journalist. >> another problem. >> both sleeping with the same person's wife. >> that is the thing, everybody is sleeping with others, everyone has a nom they plume or both. like it is a cold scene in which i don't know. i like reading your book. i don't know. i am feeling myself and the scene of espionage and you create that effectively. >> it was a lot of fun. some of it was nightmarish to write.
and partly, they live crazy lives, they genuinely did. >> these are great stories, great yarns and to some degree sad ones but how did it matter? what difference did it make? >> good question because an argument i find slightly, both sides elevated literature beyond its utility in terms of propaganda. how do you measure if the polish farmer read the copy of animal farm and thought ho-hum? but it was almost kind of a self reinforcing mechanism where one side invested more than the other, a kind of arms race in one sense or another
which is kind of fascinating. there are moments you see a definitive shift. the publication of gulags archipelago is a moment when you see attitudes especially among european communists change to the idea of communism in a way that i really do think altered the course of the cold war. >> all right. >> perfect. thank you so much for coming out. i really appreciate it. it was wonderful of you to be here. thank you especially for bravely being in conversation. thank you for hosting. [applause]
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